Monthly Archives: January 2010

Haiti’s earthquake is our tragedy, too

by Jon Pine

As soon as I heard about the horrific earthquake in Haiti last Tuesday my thoughts immediately turned to a tiny village called Simonette, about 15 miles north of Port au Prince. Here, like so many villages dotting the hills of Haiti, live some of the poorest people on the planet.

Jon Pine

Their “homes” are mostly sheets of tin and wooden boards tied together with rope or wire. The floor is the dirt beneath their feet. Most sleep on a blanket, a thin mattress or maybe just some scavenged cardboard. A fortunate few manage to earn enough money for some bricks and mortar to construct sturdier walls.

But there is no running water; instead, the villagers tote it in on foot, in five-gallon plastic buckets balanced atop their heads, from a community well more than a mile away. There is electricity – sometimes. It’s off way more than it’s on, so it can’t be counted upon. Meals, when they can afford to eat, are simple fare cooked in steel pots over a charcoal fire. Almost always it is boiled rice and beans.

I visited Simonette in 2003 with friends who had been missionaries in Haiti for more than 20 years. Their latest project was to support Ed Hughes, a retired Canadian tool and die maker who had set up a make-shift orphanage just outside the village. There, two dozen or so boys and girls, who had either lost their parents or whose parents could no longer afford to care for them, found comfortable beds, sanitary conditions, at least two hearty meals a day, and the means to attend school every day. I was there to take photos and video to create fund-raising materials.

We have not heard any news about the condition of the orphanage following the earthquake. Tragically, Ed died a couple of years ago after falling off the orphanage roof while trying to adjust his satellite antenna; his son reportedly runs the orphanage now. We sort of lost touch with them after Ed died, and I’ve been trying to locate the area on some satellite photos taken after the quake. But it’s such a tiny village it is not listed on any maps. I am hoping that, by some miracle, they are all okay.

But what is “okay”? That’s the question that has been haunting me this week, as I worked with other local volunteers to collect food, medicine and other emergency supplies for the victims of this horrific tragedy. If we help the survivors get back on their feet and resume a life close to what they had before last Tuesday, is that “okay”?

I don’t think so.

An estimated 80 percent of Haitians live below the poverty line, with 56 percent living in abject poverty. One in three babies born does not survive to age five. These statistics are from before the earthquake.

This is not “okay”.

The tragedy in Haiti is our tragedy, despite what jerks like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson want us to believe. We should never have accepted this level of poverty so close to us, while we enjoy comparative riches beyond belief.

Haiti’s long-standing poverty is a major reason that the destruction and death tolls from the quake are so great. Port au Prince, the capital city, was designed for 400,000 people. But nearly three million live there, wedged in beside and on top of one another in spaces designed for far fewer people.

Construction there has also been substandard. Often, to save costs, concrete was mixed “thin,” with not enough cement and too much sand. Just as often, steel reinforcing bars, or “rebar,” was either skimped on or eliminated altogether. Many buildings that probably should not have crumbled, did.

Of course, money alone can not fix all of Haiti’s long-established problems. The widespread corruption and lawlessness must be addressed, too. My hope is that this tragedy will focus the eyes of the world on ALL of Haiti’s problems, not just this latest catastrophe. Because even though the quake has killed an estimated 200,000 people according to the Associated Press, poverty there has surely claimed the lives of many, many times more.

I know what some of you are thinking: “We have our own troubles now. We’re in a recession, bankruptcies are rampant, and unemployment is through the roof.” But I’ll share a couple of little stories:

On Thursday, a young lady pulled up to our food and medicine drive in an older model car. Clearly not one of our many rich housewives who live near the beach. She handed us a couple of small bags with some food and hygiene items. “I will be back tomorrow,” she said as she pulled away.

Yes, she did come back. Because Friday was the day she received her food stamps. And she used all of them to fill the back seat of her car with more food for Haiti.

And there was the Hispanic couple with two small boys who pulled up thinking we were giving out food instead of collecting it. Clearly in dire straights themselves, once they understood what we were doing, they came back and each of the boys pressed a crumpled ten-dollar bill into my hand.

If they can afford to give, can’t we all afford to give?

© 2010 Jon Pine



Filed under Current events, Posts by Jon Pine

Bob Backlund, We Hardly Knew Ye

Where are they?

In this era of immediate gratification – where you can find anything, anytime, anywhere – too many great moments in entertainment seem to have fallen through the cracks.  Here’s some stuff we actually have to remember rather than see at a moment’s notice – and changes that seem to have been made for no reason whatsoever:

We can’t find video of Bob Uecker’s incredible, hilarious 2003 Baseball Hall Of Fame acceptance speech anywhere, and it’s the greatest HOF moment of all time.  It has to been seen with the heart-wrenching tale told by sports writer Hal McCoy moments earlier to the get the full impact of one of the best-timed, most perfect comedy soliloquies ever uttered; it truly transcends both sport and humor.  But we dare you to find it.

Anywhere. But you can watch wrestlers with names like Necro Butcher on YouTube anytime.

While we’re on the subject: Where’s Mr. Belvedere reruns?  It’s not on any national networks.

Or Barney Miller.

Or The Odd Couple.

Or I Love Lucy – yes, even I Love Lucy.  Can you believe it? Thank Mertz for the DVDs.  As we write this, the venerable comedy series was not on the regular schedule of any national broadcast or cable network.  We once read a quote from a TV executive who claimed that he didn’t want to broadcast black-and-white shows because they wouldn’t hold the attention of younger viewers.  That executive was an asshole.

Or Looney Tunes.  What’s a Saturday morning without Foghorn Leghorn beating the tar out of Barnyard Dog?  The fact that this huge array of classic cartoons is owned by Time Warner – which can’t find regular time on their schedule for these wonderful animated shorts on not one, but two networks (Cartoon Network and Boomerang) – is downright criminal.  To think you can watch The Banana Splits and not Daffy Duck proves there are empty suits everywhere.

Why did they ever replace the wonderful, non-grating Richard Karn on Family Feud?  Is it really a better program now?

Why do they change hosts on Westminster Dog Show telecasts all the time?  Whatever happened to Joe Garagiola, who didn’t know a pug from his elbow but was riotously entertaining all the same?

Whatever happened to the wonderfully cheesy cartoon program The Marvel Superheroes from the 1960s?  No one seems to show the static Grantray-Lawrence Animation-produced show, which featured America’s first looks at Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, Thor, and, yes, Captain America.  The program was so incredibly bad that it achieved true greatness.  And Dean Wormer from Animal House was the voice of Iron Man!

Whatever happened to Stories Of The Century, the 1950s western where virtually every legendary villain of the Old West (Black Bart, Harry Tracy, etc.) was captured by the same lawman?

Whatever happened to The Three Stooges? At the same time a big-screen revival starring Sean Penn is being planned and a great DVD reissue series is going on, Moe, Larry, Curly, and Shemp aren’t regularly on any national network.  We don’t care about Joe Besser, though he was great on The Joey Bishop Show (speaking of Bishop, isn’t it amazing that Regis Philbin is his only contemporary left on this mortal coil?).

Whatever happened to the horrible but great Abbott & Costello Show?


Doodles Weaver?  The closing credits to his 1960s color shorts are so incredibly inane they reach a pinnacle of ridiculousness never before achieved, even by Chaplin and Keaton.  One segment during the closing (silent with honky tonk piano music in the background) shows Weaver smiling at the camera; you hear a snap; then Weaver lifts his hand and writhes in pain, as his fingers are somehow caught in a mousetrap.  Where did the trap come from?  Did he snap the trap on his own digits?  The greatest final moment in show business history, eclipsed only by the final edition of The Sopranos.

Where are Post Oat Flakes?

Whip ’N Chill?

Bonomo Turkish Taffy?

Where are the full-page magazine ads for Charles Atlas?  Fake mustaches and beards? Blow up love dolls?  The Johnson Smith Catalog, so we can keep stocked with a fresh supply of fake dog do, X-Ray Specs, and plastic vomit?

Where’s The Goon Show?

Whatever happened to Bob Hastings?  George Kennedy?  Alan Hamel?  Martha Smith?  While we’re on the subject, Julie Strain?

Whatever happened to Chocobliss candy bars?

Whatever happened to Robert Smith?


Filed under Celebrities, Current events, Entertainment, Humor, Journalism, Posts by Robert Smith